Rebecca Rhynhart on Her Political Aspirations and the One Book Everyone Should Read

The City Controller talks about the game you can’t beat her at and the importance of leadership in a crisis.

rebecca rhynhart

City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart. Illustration by Andy Friedman

I was born in … Madison, Wisconsin. My parents were at school there. And then I grew up in Abington, went to Abington High School, and then college at Middlebury in Vermont.

Before joining city government … I worked on Wall Street. Bear Stearns. I actually left right before it collapsed, to become the city treasurer under then-Mayor Nutter. That was in 2008.

My Ancestry.com report indicated that I am … 50 percent Ashkenazi Jewish, 25 percent English-Welsh, 15 percent Norwegian, which was a little surprising, and a few other things.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a … veterinarian, but I don’t really like cutting things open, so that didn’t work out. These days, I have a big rescue hound dog named Banjo and some fish.

Living through the coronavirus has taught me … how important good leadership is and how much we all took community and human contact for granted.

My heroes are … the people who stand up for what’s right every day. They aren’t names that you would know. My heroes are not famous people.

I met my husband … through my cousin. They are both in the food and wine industry. My husband sells wine. We got married in 2018. Rented out Vernick.

My usual breakfast is … Siggi’s Icelandic yogurt. Once in a while, I’ll make eggs.

When people ask me if I’m going to run for mayor in the future … I tell them I’m focused on doing my job as City Controller. Plus, I’ve got a reelection next year.

The killing of George Floyd … was a real call to action.

One book everyone should read right now is … The Color of Law, which is about how government programs segregated our cities. It wasn’t just the banks and redlining. Government programs prevented African American communities from growing, developing and building wealth.

The thing that surprised me most about this job is … the politics of it all and the pushback against doing things that made common sense. It’s gotten better to some degree, but Philly government hasn’t always worked with common sense.

When I couldn’t go out to restaurants because of the coronavirus restrictions … I enjoyed takeout — Vietnam Café and Santucci’s, to name two. We picked up pizzas from Pizzeria Beddia the other day, which was awesome.

My favorite outdoor space in Philly is … the Schuylkill River Trail. I run there a few times a week.

The first concert I remember going to was … the Cars, when I was eight. And I can’t even remember the last concert I went to. I’m so boring!

The furthest I have been from Philadelphia is … probably Australia, but I have also been to Tanzania, Thailand and Indonesia. I’ve traveled a lot. Getting outside of your comfort zone is a good thing for personal development.

One game you won’t beat me at is … ping-pong. I’m really good.

When I want to chill … I watch Netflix, like most people. This show Fauda is amazing. It’s like Homeland but way, way better.

I am deathly afraid of … heights. I’ll deal with it if I have to, but I would never go to the top of the Empire State Building for fun. Oh, and I hate cockroaches. I scream really loud.

I would describe this year as … trying. But we’ll get through it.

Published as “One of Us: Rebecca Rhynhart” in the August 2020 issue of Philadelphia magazine.